Architects unlock home potential in Simon Open Door campaign

Annual RIAI fundraiser will offer virtual consultations with registered architects

“Lockdown has taught us all the value of our homes but also highlighted the issues within them,” says celebrity architect Dermot Bannon who is fronting the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland’s annual Simon Open Door campaign.

While many of us have struggled with space and functionality over the last 12 months, trawling platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest for easy-to-execute ideas to solve our home’s shortcomings, for real, practical and informed advice nothing beats an hour’s face time with a real-life specialist to put our dreams of remodelling into real perspective. This is the real value of the RIAI Architects’ Simon Open Door annual charity initiative, which has raised more than €1 million in the 16 years since its establishment.

With registered architects giving their time and expertise for free, homeowners can benefit from a one-on-one consultation for just €95.

Storage and laundry

Dermot Bannon says that while the big dream extensions remain on some wish lists, the need for good storage and laundry facilities hidden from general view have been far more relevant. “Our homes have become not only the place we live in, but the place where we work, teach, exercise, entertain ourselves and get some head space.”


Of his own Drumcondra home, he says the utility room is the biggest in the house with space for a clothes horse to stand in addition to room for sports kits and laundry facilities. By ceding some square metres elsewhere, it keeps the rest of the property clutter-free.

And while he says he still loves an open-plan layout, he suggests that you may need to consider both. He cannily kept a room with a door to the front of his own home that he describes as an “escape space”, where family members can go to be on their own, but not to their bedrooms.

Three dimensions

Architects see space differently. Because they think in 3D volumes, they can offer really smart storage solutions to those of us living in small spaces where every square centimetre needs to work that much harder.

The RIAI Simon Open Door Event is offering more than 1,000 hours of this expertise.

As the consultations will be virtual this year, the event will allow homeowners to “walk” their architect through their space and better show the changes they’d like to make, and all for a fraction of the usual cost.

But while the fees may be minimal, they all add up and go a long way in supporting the Simon Community in its mission to tackle homelessness.

Demand for the event will be high, but if you apply early, you may just secure a consultation with the architect of your choice.

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in property and interiors